- John Deary, a Philadelphia-based comedian, sleeps in a different room than his girlfriend.
- Deary told Insider it’s his first time doing a “sleep divorce,” and he never wants to go back.
- 1 in 4 Americans sleep in a different bed than their partner. Experts say it can improve a relationship.
John Deary loves the wrestling poster he hung above his bed.
The 35-year-old Philadelphia-based comedian says his girlfriend would nix it, along with his video game memorabilia, if they shared a bedroom. But they’ve slept in separate beds since moving in together in June, so Deary has free reign over his bedroom design — and how much space he takes up on the mattress.
One in four Americans have chosen to sleep separately from their partners for a better night’s rest, according to a 2017 survey from the National Sleep Foundation, the most recent data on the trend. The concept is now popular and polarizing enough to have a name, “sleep divorce.”
Deary had heard of the concept once before, from a married friend who praised it, but he’d never tried it himself because he’s never had sleep problems, he said.
When Deary met his girlfriend in June 2021, he quickly learned that she had to sleep alone, or she would barely sleep. They rarely had sleepovers while living apart because of her “delicate” sleeping nature, Deary told Insider.
When they decided to move in together year later, they were set on a sleep divorce and only looked at two-bedroom apartments. It’s now been five months of sleep divorce, and Deary says he never wants to go back to sharing if he and his girlfriend can continue to afford it, as the arrangement has helped them maintain their independence and health.
Indeed, sleep experts say sleep divorce can reduce resentment and irritability partners may otherwise bring to their relationship if they have night after night of poor sleep.
“While there are benefits to sleeping together, one partner’s troublesome sleeping or annoying bed habits can affect the other and increase production of the stress hormone cortisol, thus causing issues that impact the couple as a whole,” Houston-based therapist Mary Jo Rapini told the New York Times in 2019.
‘Sleep divorce’ hasn’t detracted from their sex lives
Deary weaves his sleep divorce experience into his comedy, joking about how he and his girlfriend invite each other to their prospective spaces.
Often, audience members gasp in shock when Deary says how much he likes his sleep setup, he said. During one comedy set, someone asked Deary if he worried his girlfriend would cheat on him because of it.
“Some people are appalled. They’re like, ‘Oh, you’re going to break up. It’s a bad sign.’ It’s literally not. It’s a sign of good communication and acknowledging each other’s needs,” Deary told Insider.
He said they like to wind down together every night in their living room space. If they’re in the mood to have sex, it happens organically, with one partner suggesting their room or the other’s, Deary said.
“Sometimes we’ll work our way upstairs and she’s like, ‘We should go into your room tonight because my bed is covered in stuff. I’ve got to do my laundry.’ So we have two beds to choose from, which is also a perk,” Deary told Insider.
Other times, he’ll knock on his girlfriend’s bedroom door to cuddle for a bit, since she tucks herself in to read earlier than he does.
“You’re two completely independent people with your own livelihoods and schedules and sleeping cycles. It makes sense,” Deary said. He added that they keep their laundry separate too, and wash their own sheets.
They’d like to reap the benefits of a ‘sleep divorce’ forever, but space and money could stop them
Though Deary doesn’t require his own room for a good night’s sleep, he’s found other benefits to the setup, like not having to compromise on bedroom decorations, cleanliness, or when to turn out the lights.
He said his girlfriend likes to rearrange furniture and redecorate to update her space. That would bother him if it was his room too, but it’s a non-issue because of their two-bedroom setup, Deary said.
He also appreciates the ability to have his own uninterrupted nighttime routine after a previous girlfriend insisted on nightly sleepovers that would mess with his schedule.
Deary told Insider he’d like to keep up their sleep divorce for as long as he and his girlfriend can afford it, but starting a family could impact their plans if they need bedrooms for children.
For now, he can’t fathom trading his bedroom freedom and well-rested girlfriend for a few bedtime cuddles.